Children are universally loved in Jordan, and travelling with your family is likely to provoke spontaneous acts of kindness and hospitality from the locals.
Children are central to Jordanian society – many couples have four or five, and double figures isn’t uncommon. Middle-class extended families tend to take pleasure in spoiling kids rotten, allowing them to stay up late and play endlessly, but as a counterpoint, kids from low-income families can be seen out on the streets at all hours selling cigarettes. The streets are quite safe and even very young children walk to school unaccompanied.
Only the cheapest hotels will bar children; most will positively welcome them (with deals on extra beds or adjoining rooms), as will all restaurants, although discounts may have to be negotiated. There are a few precautions to bear in mind. Foremost is the heat: kids’ sensitive skin should be protected from the sun as much as possible, both in terms of clothing (brimmed hats and long sleeves are essential) and gallons of sunblock. Heatstroke and dehydration can work much faster on children than on adults. Sunglasses with full UV protection are vital to protect sensitive eyes. Kids are also more vulnerable than adults to stomach upsets: you should definitely carry rehydration salts in case of diarrhoea. Other things to watch out for include the crazy traffic (especially for British kids, who’ll be used to cars driving on the other side of the road), stray animals that may be disease carriers, and jellyfish and poisonous corals off Aqaba’s beaches.
Children will love riding camels in Wadi Rum, and even Petra’s threadbare donkeys may hold an appeal. Most of the archeological sites will probably be too rarefied to be of more than passing interest (aside, possibly, from exploring towers and underground passages at Karak, Shobak or Ajloun castles); spotting vultures, ibex and blue lizards at Dana or Mujib may be a better bet, and the glass-bottomed boats at Aqaba are perennial favourites. Children born and brought up in urban environments will probably never have experienced anything like the vastness and silence of the open desert, and you may find they’re transfixed by the emptiness of Wadi Rum or the eastern Badia.